Honda takes a slow-lane approach to V2V

Amid the fanfare launch of one of Honda’s most advanced mass market models has come the admission that the new tenth generation Civic will not be able to handle expected V2V technology.

The communications requirement being pushed by the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is expected by many industry experts to get ratified by the White House within the next two years. Yet Honda’s chief engineer in charge of developing the new Civic, Mitsuru Kariya, made the candid confession that a new car would have to be developed to handle the technology widely regarded as essential for moving up the autonomous levels.

Speaking through an interpreter at this year's Paris Motor Show, Kariya told TU-Automotive that devising and testing the connectivity the car has posed a new challenge for his teams working simultaneously in Japan and the US.

He said: “Since we wanted this car to be compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android technology, we can to develop an environment you could properly test these technologies in the real world. So that was a new area for us in the development of this car.

“We had to ensure the car had connectivity with all kinds of different smartphones. So these were new test requirements that had, themselves, first have to be established.”

However, while the car’s connectivity capabilities with mobile devices may be market-leading, its potential for V2V or V2X certainly is not.

Kariya said: “If it’s just about connectivity with you smartphone or mobile device the system boundaries remain in the car but if you talk about car data to be exposed to external institutions or components then you have to be very careful in terms of confidentiality of data. This is still something that everyone, not just Honda, is working on how to handle and how to manage this kind of information properly so that it doesn’t fall into bad hands.

“For tenth generation it’s only internal communications we have worked on so it would have to be a future generation car to handle these requirements.”

This comes as something of a surprise especially considering the factory has spent the best part of five years developing the car so, should V2V be mandated sometime within the next two years, the eleventh generation of Civic is likely to be only able to reach turn-of-wheel about three years later.

A surprise too considering the extensive redevelopment of the vehicle to challenge its major rivals from Ford, Audi and Volkswagen.

Kariya explained: “The biggest drawback we experienced with the current, ninth, generation vehicle was that we didn’t have any new power trains and those we had to use, to be honest, were getting a bit out-of-date. This means it was increasingly difficult to compete especially in the European market. We saw that both the European and other Asian OEMs were improving their offerings.

“So for the development of the 10th generation we really put the emphasis on the performance of the car with the development of a new powertrain but also with the dynamic handling of the car. We completely revised the size and proportions of the car by making it lower and wider which are both beneficial for the handling of the vehicle. This, in turn, required the need for a completely new platform using many new technologies.

“The design and the materials used are also aimed at improving the quality feel of the car and focused heavily on the European market to take on those rival carmakers and appeal to those consumers.”

Downsizing of the engine to keep pace with ever tightening fuel efficiency and emissions requirements was front-and-centre of Honda’s plans, said Kariya. “For the 1.0-liter powertrain, the Ford Focus EcoBoost was the main benchmark for us to look at and then the 1.0-liter Golf arrived and we looked at that too. We believe that, in terms of dynamic performance and fuel efficiency, our 1.0-liter engine is better and we believe this trade-off ratio is one of the most important attributes of the engine for the customer and gives them the best added value as a product.”

Yet Honda’s cautious approach to applying V2V-ready technology to the new model could, by some, be seen as a reasonable each-way bet on the challenges the technology still faces as carmakers and telecoms providers try to trash out a common language platform that will enable all their products to communicate seamlessly in a crowded space.

It’s also far to say, in Honda’s defence, any forthcoming government legislation will probably involve a two-to-three year period of grace to allow carmakers to develop the required technology, just in time for the next generation of Civic to roll off the production lines.

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